We visited Patan Durbar Square this past weekend. It was our first touristy thing (even though we aren’t tourists) in Kathmandu. One of our favorites was this little guy, the warrior monkey. Not meaning to be culturally insensitive, but I think his name was Hanuman and he was pretty darn cute.
Patan Durbar is a UNESCO world heritage site which is just a mile or so walk from our flat. Lucky us! September 28 was World Tourism Day and Patan Durbar hosted numerous events and festivities. So…. we chose to go the next day, just to avoid all those tourist you know. “Patan Durbar Square is full of ancient monuments, temples and shrines noted for their exquisite craftmanship and architectural beauty.” says the
tourist observer brochure.
I thought it might be a bit creepy walking through old shrine and temples and past Hindu god likenesses, kinda like walking through ghosts at Hogwarts, but it wasn’t. We had a lovely day without strange, creepy feelings.
We walked around in our geeky sun hats, took pictures and then ate at a local cafe. Ok, ok, fine we were tourists. But you know, after a few weeks of trying to pass off our monolingual selves and our blond children as Kathmandudites and dudettes, it was not a bad thing to be tourists for a day. It was a bit of a relief not to have to figure out how to say something in Nepali and to pretend I know where I’m going and what I’m doing.
We haven’t done that great of a job getting an outsiders appreciation of this place yet and have jumped right into to attempting to figure out the inter-workings of culture, language, health care and human trafficking. Being tourists for a day was time to appreciate Nepal for Nepal, its’ history, its’ beauty, its’ food, without intentionally observing all its’ quirks.
We had a chance to talk to our small group from home and our, ‘sensitive to that sort of thing’, friend Sasha asked us how we were doing emotionally with our cultural transition. My answer was, “Umm, well I haven’t gotten to that yet”. A travel-wise friend gave me the advice to function in a state of denial until I felt ready to handle it all. Just not to deal with the stress and emotions till I got past some of the other stuff first and float through the first few weeks on denial (insert clique joke about ‘the Nile’). Sounded kinda like a cop-out when she first told me but… she was right. There is a lot of stuff to deal with when entering a new culture and the stress of it all can really just ride side car until you are ready to deal with it as passenger. Dave is not so much into that strategy, he is stressed out but dealing with it. Probably a healthier way to adjust but whatever, denial is working for me right now.
My mother wrote me a note that she handed me just as we were leaving and told me to read it on the plane. Yeah right. If I had read it on the plane I would have had to insist on an emergency landing and airline provided transportation to bring me home. So the letter remains on my desk unopened and I have slipped off into the comfortable, familiar and fictional world of Harry Potter (hence the previous reference) and Pride & Prejudice. For now I am much more at home at Hogwarts and Pemberley then in Kathmandu.
A day as a tourist brought me a little closer to coming out of denial. I will eventually emerge from my books and read the letter on my desk and I will eventually learn Nepali and understand some of the cultural worldview, but I will never actually be Nepalese and that’s ok. I guess learning to live in that duplicity is just part of living the expat life.
Here is Patan Durbar and our day as tourists!
David correctly informed me that I did not actually post pictures of shrines and temples only our family. Woops, sorry, just kinda being a mom I guess. So I corrected this oversight and added some shrines and temples as well.